Coffee Talk Tuesday - Changes in Upgrade Points coming to Colorado

This week we fall back to the race community as we finish up this 2012 cx season within the week in Colorado and take a break from weekend racing. Thanks to Dale Riley who provided the base content for our discussion of the desired or dreaded upgrade process and the changes coming from USA Cycling. To me and where I am with cycling now this article reads like a peanuts cartoon classroom but I vividly remember years ago when I "played to points game". Just like how you perform in a race there are strategies to playing this game, go out strong in Sept and get call up points, play in October with new race tactic but don't try to collect too many points and prematurely upgrade before states.... be selective about the events in November and line it up for a upgrade just after states. That was the dream, in reality I got sucked into the the desire for that elusive 1st place and prematurely forced to upgrade to 2 before states. Thanks Dale and enjoy.

By Dale Riley,

New USAC Upgrade Criteria for 2013 – 12/6/12 – Dale Riley

USA Cycling recently announced new upgrade criteria and standards for the 2013 season. What are the changes, and how might that affect both you and the racing community in Colorado?

There are many changes, so here is a summary table, both for Cyclocross and Road. It lists this year’s USAC criteria, Next year’s new USAC criteria, and for reference, the previous ACA policy (or what I can remember of it…)
Cyclocross Upgrade requirements by year/governing body, Category.

What changed for Cyclocross? Specific point limits for automatic upgrades were added to Cat3 & Cat2, which seems fair and more consistent with the upgrade points system, instead of a number of wins & field sizes. For Cat 4, this is a pretty large change, basically imposing a 10 race limit on Cat 4 before forcing an upgrade to Cat 3. While this would certainly eliminate “sandbagging” in the Cat 4 ranks, it might not be well received by the back of the pack Cat 4s forced to move up, not to mention it would trigger a rather large migration of LARGE numbers of riders from the Cat 4 fields into the Cat 3 races over a season or two. With 35+ Cat3 fields already one of the larger cross fields racing right now, this could cause overcrowding issues in Cat 3 groups in the next season.

What changed for the road side? Again see some changes from number of wins & field sizes to points limits for automatic upgrades for Cat 4 & up. Also see a significantly higher number of upgrade points needed to apply for voluntary upgrades from Cat 4 and higher.

There seems to be a “tightening” of the upgrade criteria on the road, making it “harder” to petition for a voluntary upgrade by requiring more points, while on the Cross side, upgrading from Cat 4 to 3 is now being forced at what was the threshold for being ABLE to petition. It would seem this “10 and out” approach in the Cat 4 ranks could cause a rather large and fundamental shift in what the lower 2 category fields look like in cross today, who races in them, and how big those fields become. Was the intent to make Cat 4 a ‘pure” beginner category? To “end sandbagging”? Some other motivation? That is not clear from the announcement.
As a side note, it appears from monitoring the BRAC upgrade points pages, there seems to be an unofficial auto upgrade threshold at 25 upgrade points, at least in the Cat 4 groups here in Colorado. Not seeing much evidence of widespread “sandbagging” here, with people upgrading (or BEING upgraded…) pretty consistently. Checking around the internet for other racing areas, you can see a lot more complaining about riders NOT being upgraded. It seems that the USAC upgrade coordinators have at least some latitude in how each area does upgrades.
What does this mean to you, and to Colorado racing next season?

News Item: 


In the dead of the night...

I beg to differ. I'd say someone is definitely keeping track. One of my Cat 4 lady friends got an email in the dead of night after her race last Sat. Mandatory upgrade. Which...the rest of us were somewhat thrilled about, and to the author's credit: it was humorously written. However, my friend failed to see the humor in the timing. One week before states. Welcome to the Katie Compton fest. This is definitely a slight downer to the end of her season.

In a unrelated note, I DO agree with what omeone pointed out above: Lennard Zinn is just too fast. Perhaps we can petition him to upgrade to the 35+'s and go at a different time of day. I also have to point out that he was quite the gentleman when he lapped me at Louisville. Even when I openly (and somewhat jokingly) cursed his name with my fist in the air.

It will be interesting to see how all of these changes trickle down next year. But I'm game regardless. It's not as if it will stop me from going out there, having a good time and being average.

You are being watched

For Colorado this cross season, the BRAC upgrade points list is updated weekly, and I have seen riders hitting 25 points being upgraded every time. Not sure about other parts of the country, but here the upgrade points (At least for cat4..) are being tracked, and SOME kind of "mandatory" upgrades issued (not seeming to follow the published USAC guidelines, but a 25 point threshold...) on a weekly basis.

From back of the pack to Cat 3 in one season, without training!

The view from the tail end of the 35+, 4 pack is that having automatic upgrades based on number of races rather than results is crazy. Looks like we will just start clogging up the 35+ 3's. What is even crazier for the Cat 4 women, unless they require that promotors run a seperate Cat 3 race for them. It is already a raw deal that they have to ride with the 55+ and get counted as being lapped when Lenard passes most of their field each week. Now if they do 10 races they line up against Katie Compton. Upgrades should be on merit not participation. Next thing you know everyone will get a ribbon.

I hope the 10-race limit

I hope the 10-race limit isn't retroactive. This would mean the back-of-the-field guys who are just out there for fun will be racing against cat 3s and getting lapped immediately by the 35+ guys. Thanks for your entry fee, now get off the course. I thought last year's system was working fine, not sure why we now get radical swings to opposite extremes each year. The real problem is many of us are totally addicted to this sport and we'll keep paying and playing no matter what rules are imposed. Such is the love-hate relationship with cross, I guess.

Relax 2012 CX isn't even over yet

Ok, I am thinking the wording for the 10 finish auto upgrade for Cat 4 CX was a misinterpretation by whomever actually wrote it as it is ludicrous. It's more likely supposed to be an optional upgrade after competing in 10 races, which I would be fine with. If I were a gambler, I'd bet it gets rectified prior to the 2013 season.

As far as the road upgrade changes, I am thrilled to finally see the ability to carry your upgrade points. If it takes you 5 years to amass enough points to upgrade, you've likely gained the experience necessary to compete safely at that higher level.

I recently was affected by

I recently was affected by these crazy upgrade rules. I was a Cat 4 up until last Sunday morning at 12:11am, when I received an email stating that I was being upgraded to a Cat 3. Normally, this would be great news. The fact that the upgrade came 1 week before States is what was so upsetting.

The way that the points system and upgrades it set up right now it rather pointless. Had I realized the way this works at the start of the season, I could've played the game just right and waited for others to get upgraded as I slowly accumulated points by finishing in 5th place or so. I just don't think that, at the end of the season, the winner of the Colorado Cross Cup or the State Champion is not representative of the season - it's whoever did well enough to not get upgraded.
I also think that upgrades need to be handled by a certain time period within the season. If you're performing well early in the season and are on track to rack up a bunch of points, BRAC needs to recognize this and upgrade people early in the season.

As far as my suggestion for upgrades goes, I think that coming up with a system based off of how well a person finishes and who the competition was should be enforced. I was told that I am being upgraded partially because I have 2 wins in the Cat 4 race. One win was in a race with 2 other ladies; there was 3 of us total, including one woman who hadn't tried cyclocross before. That should not count nearly as strongly as someone who wins a race against 30 people total, including 10 of the top Cat 4 women in the state of Colorado. I was also told that I was upgraded partially because I am listed as a Cat 2 mountain bike racer. This category came after I did one mountain bike race in the Mountain States Cup, where I was the only racer; all I had to do was finish. These are the things that need to be looked at and considered when upgrading a person.

Now I'm faced with the decision of racing this weekend. Do I spend the money to drive 3 hours to a race, pay $45, and get lapped by the top women in the state of Colorado? Or do I race in the Men's Cat 4? Or do I just stay home and ski?